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Malibu picnic supports wildlife saviors

Julie Tamamait-Stenslie, a Chumash elder and tribal chairwoman of the Barbareno Ventureno Band of Mission Indians, holds a necklace made of seeds Saturday, June 24, at the Feather, Flippers and Fur Picnic. Photos by Suzy Demeter/22nd Century Media
Zuma Valley Foods President Julie Labin hands out a sample of her vegan coconut ceviche to Jeff Swimmer during the Feathers, Flippers and Fur picnic June 24.
Malibu locals (left to right) Marla Boudreau, Asheley Ferbas and Marina Boudreu pose for photo in the Wildlife Warrior shirts during the Feathers, Flippers and Fur picnic June 24.
Indie rock band Jordan Hook and the Projectionists perform during the picnic.
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
9:17 am PDT June 27, 2017

Bedecked in stunningly beautiful indigenous regalia, Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, tribal elder of the Barbareno Ventureno Band of Mission Indians, opened the inaugural Feathers, Flippers and Fur Picnic at Malibu Bluffs Park to benefit the California Wildlife Center on Saturday, June 24, with a song. 

Tumamait-Stenslie sang a beautiful water song to welcome attendees, who soaked up the beautiful weather and ocean views.

“We are here to support the Wildlife Center, which we respect greatly and to provide education about our tribal culture and our tradition of collecting food and using every single part of an animal,” she said, noting her ancestors came from the indigenous villages of Humalino, Sumo (now Zuma) and Lohostoxni villages, which once were in Malibu. “In the fall of each year, we say prayers to the animals that have sustained us. We have great reverence for the animals.  

“My prayer was to note how thankful we are to be here in our homeland and how everyone needs to learn about how the natural world can sustain us. We can share amongst one another the beauty of this land which can bring us peace in the world and bring us knowledge.”

Children flew kites in the gentle breeze overlooking the calm Pacific Ocean as attendees enjoyed vegetarian food from local vendors, enjoyed music, games and a magic show, and perused the many options at the silent auction. 

Since 1988, the center has provided support for both land and sea animals in need of assistance in Malibu and on the beaches. 

“Since our organization began, the center has saved more than 48,000 animals. We will soon be celebrating our 20th anniversary,” said Jennifer Brent, executive director of the California Wildlife Center.

“We cannot save all of the animals; we save approximately 50 percent of them, which is amazing because by the time we pick them up they are often in very poor shape. We field more than 300 calls from events on the beaches of Malibu alone.”  

So far this year, Brent said, three dolphins have beached in Malibu. 

But it wasn’t just the ocean dwellers being celebrated at the picnic. Malibuities have proven to have a special place in their hearts for animals of all types.

“Malibu is particularly respectful of both terrestrial and sea animals,” Brent said. “People in Malibu understand the special relationship between people and animals and the delicate balance there is. Their understanding that is very unique. They know that we need to teach the next generation to take care of the animals. We have more than 240 volunteers who work more than 20,000 hours per year, manning the phones, building the facilities for the animals, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.” 

California Wildlife Center volunteers shared their experiences with animals, from sea lions and seals to chipmunks and squirrels. 

“A squirrel may or may not have gotten lost in my pants,” said emcee Jeff Hall, a former marine program manager for the center, as children giggled in glee at his tale. “I may also have been bitten by more animals than anyone else and I am sure that I have the record for being pooped on by more varieties of animals than anyone else.” 

Volunteer Jack Rollens noted the array of animals the CWC helps.

 “The center does a fantastic job of helping all indigenous wildlife. It is an amazing experience to see when a baby sea animal is found in an emaciated, weak state.  The baby does not know how to fish and the volunteers first gavage-feed the animal, build up its strength, actually teach it to fish, and then ultimately release it into nature.  You never know after that if the animal will be OK, but at least we’ve given it a fighting chance at survival.”

Displays showed how the center helps animals receive surgery after swallowing fish hooks and its other efforts to help Malibu’s wildlife. 

Malibu’s Monarch Project provided information about saving the monarchs in Malibu.

“People need to understand the lifecycle and importance of planting native milkweed, because it is the only plant that can support the Monarch butterflies in Malibu,” said Dr. Rhonda Jessum, a project volunteer. “Malibu has had some over-wintering monarchs that don’t migrate. It is important to keep them here.” 

Performers and vendors alike all volunteered their time and efforts to help preserve Malibu’s unique landscape and ecosystems.

“We came today because California Wildlife Center does great work for Malibu,” said Jordan Hook, of Jordan Hook & the Gypsy Revival Band. “We are stoked to be involved in this inaugural event and hope to participate every year.”

Volunteers and vendors all noted the importance of educating the young about preserving Malibu’s precious animals. The next generation was well represented, not only when playing on the fields and perusing information booths, but also when volunteering. Among them was 12-year-old Ginger Taurek, who was recently featured in People Magazine, who offered samples of her organic candies. 

“Ginger’s love of animals brings us here today,” said Piper Cochrane, Ginger’s mother. “If there is a way to save an animal, Ginger signs up. She started this company when she was only 6 years old and first focused on saving the manatees and the snow leopard.”

Malibuite Julie Labin, of Zuma Valley Foods, shared her organic, coconut-based dishes, including mango coconut balls and fresh, coconut vegan ceviche and salsa.  Other sponsors included Paul Mitchell, Gluck Building, Kate and Michael Novotny, the Stark Family, Total Graphics, Urban Sports L.A., Pure Payments and Waste Management.

As if speaking for all in attendance, Tumamait-Stenslie summed up the tone of the day: 

“Today, we are sharing the beauty of the relationship between nature and man and the traditional, beautiful harmony of sustainability in our tribes. The beauty of the abundance of the Earth is still here and we must maintain it. If we destroy it, we cannot get it back. All people need to listen to our ancient practices of sustainability and be respectful.” 

For more information about California Wildlife Center, visit or call (310) 458-9453.